November 10th was a exciting day at the United Church of Jaffrey. On this day, we celebrated the fact that our church has been an “Open and Affirming” church in the UCC for 25 years!
The United Church of Jaffrey was the second church in New Hampshire to become Open and Affirming in 1994!
Seven of the original 12 members of the Open and Affirming Committee who did this important, ground breaking and prophetic work in 1993 are still with us. Together these 7 member read the original ONA declaration (see text of the declaration below). After this, Rev. Carolyn Keilig, the NHUCC conference president presented the church with an award in recognition of 25 years as an ONA church.
After this, we had a baptism, for young Elyse Rose Howell — a sweet interlude in our service.
And then… Al Green, the director of the LGBT Asylum Task Force, spoke.
The LGBT Asylum Task Force supports LGBTQ people whom are fleeing persecution in their home countries and are seeking asylum in the US. They provide housing, food, and connection to pro bono legal, medical, and mental health resources for the up to two-year period that it takes for folks to be able to legally work. The Task Force has directly supported about 300 people from more than 20 of the 70 countries where it is still illegal to be LGBTQ.
A recording of Al’s speech, and the words of Chris, a young gay man from Jamaica who has been given asylum in the United States, can be heard by pressing the play button below:
At the end of the service, Rev. Mark sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”
DECLARATION OF OPEN AND AFFIRMING
FOR THE UNITED CHURCH OF JAFFREY, NEW HAMPSHIRE
In an effort to explore many facets of life in our society for the homosexual or bisexual person, and to understand how the Church of Jesus Christ has responded to these sisters and brothers, an open and affirming discussion group met for five sessions in the fall of 1993. Their study, observations and conclusions form the basis for this declaration for all members and Friends of the United Church.
Statement of Commitment
Our homosexual And bisexual brothers and sisters live beside us all the time. They are our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, our friends and neighbors. They live in all corners of the earth, and every economic station, and work in every profession and place of employment.
These children of the Creator God have been rejected and met with silence by the very Church of Jesus Christ we soul of semicolon the cause of this rejection has been lack of knowledge and an unwillingness to learn.
Since we of the United Church of Jaffrey do strongly believe in the equality of personhood before God of every one of God’s people – including those of gay, lesbian and bisexual orientation– it is not possible for us to close our doors to anyone. We are and remain open to anyone who seeks with us the true nature of the Christian Life.
We know that being open and open-minded is not all we have been asked to be. We have also been asked to affirm the homosexual and bisexual life in the same manner that we affirm all others. If we truly believe in being servants of the loving God and always for others we have no choice but to affirm the lives of homosexuals and bisexuals.
Declaration. The United Church of Jaffrey accepts this statement of commitment and declares itself an Open and Affirming Church in both its membership and leadership, of the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ. Knowing that this commitment poses a spiritual challenge, we promise to gently encourage each other in our struggle to understand and accept, to pray for the strength to dispel ignorance fear and hatred and to choose to turn toward loving and away from judging, since only God is capable of pure impartiality.